But every cloud has a silver lining, and the need to do more with smaller budgets also brings the opportunity to adopt agile marketing tactics, explore new channels, and embrace digitally-driven tools and techniques that accurately measure what is working and what is not. Rather than taking a defeatist approach to the current situation, marketers from both brands and agencies must see it as a time to delight and retain existing clients, engage with new customers and build a pipeline for the future.
Keep on marketing
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the marketing industry went into paralysis, with many brands pausing activities and campaigns to take stock of the situation. Now most see that, although they need to revise their marketing strategies, they do need to maintain marketing activity to retain share of voice, increase market share and generate new leads, putting themselves in a stronger position for the recovery phase.
Widely cited McGraw-Hill research into the recession of the early eighties revealed companies that advertised aggressively at the time enjoyed sales 256% higher than those that stopped advertising. And according to research from the Harvard Business Review, “companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow do well after a recession”. Marketers don’t necessarily have direct control over marketing budgets, but they need to be able to explain to those that do the importance of maintaining marketing efforts at this pivotal time.
Review marketing strategies
Reviewing and revising marketing strategies is inevitable, and this can take many forms. Marketers may want to reassess their messaging to ensure it is relevant and appropriate at this time. Initially many brands reformed their messaging around COVID-19, showing empathy and support. But while this was well received in the short term, there was a feeling some brands were simply jumping on the bandwagon with increasingly unoriginal messaging and creative. According to a YouGov poll phrases such as ‘all in this together’ were particularly overused. The key is to ensure messaging remains on brand and reflects genuine brand values, without being insensitive to the current situation.
Marketers may also want to rethink marketing channels to make the most of increased media consumption. Lockdown drove the biggest media engagement rise in five years, with a 9% hike in digital consumption, taking total time spent to over 10 hours per day. At first brands were reluctant to be associated with COVID-19 related content, but as the virus becomes part of the new normal, this content provides interesting opportunities. Nine in ten UK adults are accessing news about the pandemic every day and adjacent ad placements offer great value, so marketers could take this opportunity to reach a large and engaged audience.
However marketers are reviewing their strategies, and can use advanced measurement technologies to understand what is working and what isn’t. By adopting a test, learn and build on success approach they can find the messaging, channels and techniques that are resonating with consumers, optimise campaigns and make limited budgets work harder.
Demonstrate business value
Marketers are understandably concerned about the sustainability of their teams and individual roles at this challenging time and, in a survey conducted back in April, 56% of respondents said they had become more concerned about job security over the previous weeks. In an era of uncertainty it is vital for marketers to prove their value and demonstrate results through data-driven marketing.
By moving away from more traditional marketing methods and adopting agile working practises they can clearly demonstrate how marketing continually contributes to real business outcomes. By adopting the test, learn and build on success approach, marketers are naturally set up to demonstrate how they are driving business goals, and by using the right tools they can quantify ROI while building a business case for the marketing budgets they handle.
Times are certainly challenging for marketers as the COVID-19 fallout continues to evolve, but opportunity is there for those that want to seize it. By pushing ahead with marketing, revising strategies to make the most of the current climate and demonstrating real business value – all underpinned by advanced measurement tools and technologies – marketers can turn this dark cloud inside out, make the most of its silver lining, and move forward beyond the COVID-19 era.